TIFF Review: ‘Mid90s’ is a Commendable Directorial Debut of Jonah Hill

Jonah Hill has proven himself as an actor. Starting out in teen films, mostly in comic roles, he slowly graduated into a dramatic actor, nabbing two Oscar nominations along the way. Despite what his on-screen roles might lead you to believe, he is a pretty damn serious actor. You can tell that he takes every role with a commitment that’s rare among actors of this generation. With an experience of over a decade in the movie industry, Hill decided that its time to try hands in directing. I am glad to report that his directorial debut, Mid90s, is a commendable piece of work.

Mid90s is a coming-of-age story of a 13-year-old boy, Stevie (Sunny Suljic). He lives with his mom, who tries to be an attentive parent, and his brother, who is a bully. Displeased with his life, Stevie searches his working-class Los Angeles suburb for somewhere to belong. He finds it at a skate shop where he makes new friends. Stevie’s new buddies are older than him like to skateboarding — and getting into trouble. Stevie in an effort to get accepted is willing even to attempt insane stunts. Soon, he becomes darling of the group and in turn, gives him a sense of worth that he hadn’t had all his life.

What Mid90s lacks in substance, Jonah more than makes it up with honesty and humor. Set to a 90s rock and rap soundtrack, the film has an all-around casual vibe that feels an amalgamation of the world of Richard Linklater and Judd Apatow. Jonah Hill clearly knows his boundaries as a first-time director and how difficult it is to make even a mediocre film. So, he sets his goals low and delivers on what he set out to achieve — which is to make a feel-good film seeped in nostalgia and teenage angst. I am not sure how autobiographical the film is — it sure feels like one — but there is a certain quality to it that I am sure all the kids who grew up in the 90s can associate with. That in itself is a big achievement and Hill should be proud of it.

Rating: 3/5